As a criminal defense attorney, I know that when someone steps into my office it is usually one of the worst moments of their lives.

They are confused, vulnerable, and afraid of the worst-case scenario. They have often been unexpectedly arrested or charged and now find themselves trapped in a legal process that can have life-altering ramifications.

Compounding this fear is the need for qualified representation, which brings up additional fears of cost and trust. Here are the five most common fears I’ve heard directly from my clients:

FEAR #1: HIDDEN FEES

The lawyer jokes on this topic and others are endless. One of my favorites is:

“Question: Why don’t snakes bite attorneys?
Answer: Professional courtesy.”

Ouch. While the joke may sting a little bit, I know that the financial stress of a criminal case can be compounded by worrying about legal fees. Financial freedom is just as important as physical freedom. A true advocate will also make sure that you can afford them. Don’t be afraid to ask.

At Proper Defense we discuss your fees up front at the first meeting. Most of our cases are flat fees, meaning we do not charge you hourly. When you have a question and call to speak with your attorney, you are not being billed for the phone call, it is included in the flat fee that you agree to in the beginning.

FEAR #2: “LEGALESE”

At a time when the number of questions and emotions are high, clients need to hear the details of the case and their options in a way they can understand. This is where the experience usually takes a nosedive.

Whether looking for criminal defense lawyers or a juvenile defense attorney, expert knowledge should be backed by compassion and direct communication.

Transparency is the standard at Proper Defense, whether you’re looking for trusted domestic violence lawyers, probation lawyers, theft lawyers, or legal experts to help successfully expunge your record. You should always get straight talk.

FEAR #3: UNRESPONSIVE TO CALLS AND EMAILS

I’ve heard this one a lot. While time in court can be the culprit, ultimately it’s a lack of urgency that is the most troubling to someone already under stress. You’ll be able to tell a number of things from the time it takes to return your initial inquiry. Trust your gut about what’s reasonable. One or two days might be. One or two weeks is not.

At Proper Defense our attorneys provide their clients with their cellphone number, making your attorney a text message away.

FEAR #4: LACK OF COMMUNICATION DURING THE CASE

Part of the value a defense attorney provides is clarity. The legal process can be very confusing. If you or your loved one is facing jail time, a plea deal, for instance, can sound very appealing. Look for someone who won’t settle for less if you’re innocent. Step-by-step communication is key and standard practice here at Proper Defense.

FEAR #5: NOT BEING MADE A PRIORITY

Feeling like you’re just another case number when your reputation, your livelihood, and even freedom is at stake isn’t acceptable. It’s key to find someone you feel has a personal investment in your case.

There are many ways to ensure that you find quality representation. Vetting an attorney before you step into their office needs to be your number one priority.

Here are three ways to do your research before making an appointment:

LOOK AT THEIR CUSTOMER SATISFACTION RATE

Rarely does a client leave a comment about a neutral experience. This is good news for you because you’ll find exceptionally good information, whether positive or negative.

For the best results, Google search the attorney by name with ‘reviews’ after it. In my case, ‘Sally Vecchiarelli reviews’. Here’s what that search turned up on Yelp and lawyer directory Avvo.

Make sure that no matter who you choose, they have been able to help in situations similar to yours. Finding an attorney with expertise in your area is just as important as making sure they have priorities that will benefit you.

Which brings us to their client philosophy.

FIGURE OUT THEIR PHILOSOPHY REGARDING CASE MANAGEMENT

Focusing on just the end result in court can lead to fearing the worst.

Find an attorney who doesn’t make you feel more afraid or like a criminal, but who instead understands that this situation is a symptom of something else you can now improve on.

Depending on the case, I might recommend AA meetings or counseling (family, individual and/or couple). If you’re currently facing criminal charges, it can feel like one of the worst things that has ever happened to you.

But a year later, so many of my clients say they were glad it happened to them because of (fill-in-the-blank). Maybe it’s something as simple as learning how to communicate better with their wife. People very rarely look at themselves but this gives you the chance to make positive changes.

Find an attorney who focuses on alleviating worry, who takes the case step-by-step. The worst case scenario (like max jail time) does not happen nearly as often as you may think. So find a professional who believes that the outcome is more than just what happens in court.

One of the most fulfilling parts of my job is hearing from past clients who have seen their lives greatly improve due to what they once thought was the end of everything.

LOOK AT THEIR PAYMENT STRUCTURE UPFRONT

Philosophy also matters because you need to be able to establish trust right away, especially when it comes to cost. Always seek an attorney who gives you a rate upfront and is willing to work with you on a payment plan based on your ability to pay.

For instance, DUIs should have a flat fee. At Proper Defense, the standard rate is $2,500, pending any multiple charges. This is a fraction of the cost many expect, but if the price is still too high, I help clients with a payment schedule that fits their lifestyle so that finances aren’t an additional stressor.

Sometimes clients are able to help themselves, and I advise them on those few times when handling the case without representation may be best for them and I never shy away from recommending that option if applicable.

Don’t let the fear of cost be a factor in getting the help you need, whether looking for juvenile law attorneys in Fresno or criminal lawyers, including a domestic violence attorney.

If it feels like freedom might be slipping through your fingers call my office, Proper Defense Law Corporation, today for a free consultation at (559) 314-4233 or schedule an appointment online here. It gets better with Proper Defense, I promise.

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